Science and Pharmaceuticals Apprenticeships Guide

Do you sit in your science lessons - dressed in a magnificent lab coat, Bunsen burner in-hand - and think, “this is incredible fun!”?

No? That’s okay. Science doesn’t need to be your one true love for you to pursue a career in the industry. With new discoveries to be made every day, there are some incredible career options out there. You could devote your life to curing diseases or tackling climate change. Or you might be the first person to clone a labradoodle. The possibilities are endless!

science apprenticeships

Gone are the days when you had to go to university to get on the career ladder. Apprentices get hands-on experience and work towards industry-relevant qualifications - all while being paid!

Choosing what to do when you leave school can be crazy complicated. So, we put together this guide to take you through everything you need to know about science and pharmaceutical apprenticeships... 

Did you know?

The soda brand Coca-Cola was created by the pharmacist John Pemberton who prescribed it as a medicine (oh, the irony!)

Have a look at the apprenticeships in Science and Pharmaceuticals we currently have:

Latest Hot Jobs

Choosing an apprenticeship in science or pharmaceuticals

The science industry is ever-changing. It’s also one of the most important and rewarding lines of work you could go into. 

And now you don’t even need to go to university to pursue a career in the science sector. More and more young people are choosing to do apprenticeships - getting qualifications and on-the-job experience , all at the same time. 

Apprentices gain an invaluable insight into their chosen industry that sets them up for the rest of their career. For instance, if you  go into healthcare - a career that will see you making a difference to people's lives every single day - prior experience and hands-on knowledge will be  crucial!

Think about it… If you studied midwifery at university, you wouldn't be expected to deliver twins in hospital a fortnight after graduation. You need experience first!

Opting for an apprenticeship also gives you the luxury of working closely with professionals in the field. It’s an opportunity to build relationships with employers and learn from their expertise.

“My employer is 100% on my side. Any questions I am unable to answer, my employer helps me understand and answer them appropriately. They have pushed me to realise my full potential  throughout the apprenticeship.” Support Worker at NHS

Or perhaps you’ve thought about doing a pharmaceutical apprenticeship? 

Pharmacists do so much more than working in pharmacies. 

As a pharmacist, you’ll have a duty to your patients to preserve, handle and distribute the correct medication. You’ll need an extensive knowledge of medicine, dosages and  side effects. Armed with this knowledge you’ll be qualified to advise and educate patients, physicians and other health practitioners.

A pharmaceutical apprenticeship will catapult your career as a pharmacist. Starting as a pharmacy assistant, you’ll get relevant experience from the start,  moving your way up through each apprenticeship level until you are a fully qualified pharmacist. All the qualifications, without the 50k debt!

What on earth is R&D?

Research and development is a popular career path within the science and pharmaceutical industries. R&D is all about  creating new technology, improving the efficiency of existing products and, in some cases, improving the quality of people’s lives. 

To save us writing Research & Development every time we mention it, we've used the common abbreviation ‘R&D’ throughout the guide.

Has Greta Thunberg inspired you to change the world? Well, R&D plays an essential role in tackling climate change, with scientists across the world working to reduce our carbon footprint. 

Many of the top employers on are going green, in whatever ways they can. Unilever, for instance, have created a Sustainable Living Plan to change the way they run their business. Check out their range of R&D apprenticeships to find out how you too can have a positive impact on the world around you. 

Here’s an incredibly insightful video on what it’s like to work for Unilever.

Which level of apprenticeship is right for me?

There are many different levels of apprenticeships to choose from, so it’s essential that you do your research before making the leap.  

Deciding which level is right for you will largely depend on what qualifications you have already achieved. Here we break down each level to make it just that little bit easier...


AKA an intermediate apprenticeship. This is designed for students who have left  school and want to dive straight into work rather than doing A-Levels. An intermediate apprenticeship is equivalent to 5 GCSE qualifications and a step closer to your dream career. 

An example of a level 2 apprenticeship in this field is:

Pharmacy Services Assistant

What does this apprenticeship involve?

In this role, you’ll be supporting a licensed pharmacist. Your day-to-day activities will include supplying and preparing medicines, as well as distributing them to patients and other healthcare professionals. You’ll also be trusted to fill out paperwork and file it away correctly, use the cash register, and answer calls from customers and patients.


This level typically lasts between 12-18 months, but this depends on the employer.

What skills are important?

As a pharmacy assistant you will be expected to:

  • Be organised and trustworthy
  • Speak up when something is wrong
  • Display excellent communication skills
  • Be respectful to your patients


Also known as an advanced apprenticeship. These apprenticeships are designed for people who have either finished an intermediate apprenticeship or who have 5 GCSEs (A*-C grade).  At the end of this level of apprenticeship, you will have earned the equivalent of 2 A-Level qualifications AND you’ll have relevant experience in your chosen career.

An example of an advanced apprenticeship is:

Prosthetic and Orthotic Technician

What does this apprenticeship involve?

You will be manufacturing and designing artificial limbs, splints, braces, or special footwear. In this role you will work with a very high attention to detail (and to very specific measurements) as each device is custom-made to the patient and their condition.


These apprenticeships can last anywhere from 24+ months.

What skills are important?

  • High attention to detail to meet the prescription of the patient
  • Creativity
  • Communication


If you think you’re ready for the next level, opt for a higher apprenticeship (designed for anyone with an advanced apprenticeship or at least 2 A-Levels). These level 4/5 apprenticeships bring even greater challenges with even greater rewards. 

Once you have completed this level of apprenticeship, you will be equipped with an extensive knowledge of your chosen industry and a higher national diploma or foundation degree.

Dental Technician (Level 5)

What does this apprenticeship involve? 

As a Dental Technician you’ll tread the fine line between art and science. You will be making dentures, crowns, bridges and dental braces that improve patients’ appearance, speech and ability to chew.


Usually around 36 months.

What skills are important?

  • Excellent communication skills
  • An eye for design
  • A steady hand!


These are also known as degree apprenticeships because they include university study. These apprenticeships are designed for 18-19 year olds who are looking for an alternative route to university. 

You will achieve a degree while being paid to work in the field gaining extensive knowledge and experience for your chosen career.  The catch is… there is no catch! 

An example of a degree apprenticeship is:

Laboratory scientist (Level 6)

What does this apprenticeship involve? 

As a laboratory scientist, you will be using your specialist knowledge to analyse, interpret and evaluate relevant scientific information. Working safely and ethically is of paramount importance in this role. So be careful when you’re handling trinitrotoluene (TNT)! 

There are many routes you can take with a lab apprenticeship. Some of the typical job roles include: Research & Development Scientist,  Analytical Chemist, Molecular Biologist, Process Scientist, Formulation Scientist or Medicinal Chemist.


This scheme usually takes around 5 years to complete.

What skills are important? 

  • Thinking creatively and problem solving
  • Managing your time effectively
  • Reliability

Have a look at a few examples of lab scientist apprenticeships with some of our top employers here!

Top science & pharmaceutical employers to work for

There are hundreds and hundreds of employers to work for in this sector, so  it can be difficult to narrow them down. 

There are a range of factors to consider! Where are these companies located? How big is the organisation? Are there any fun employee perks? And, of course, where do they rank on

Here are five employers from the Top 100 Employers Table to get you started:


GlaxoSmithKline (or as they’re also known, GSK) is a science-led global healthcare company based in multiple locations around the UK. They employ over 100,000 people who all share the same vision of helping people do more, feel better and live longer. 

GSK offers a wide range of apprenticeships, in areas such as pharmaceutical science, laboratory science and manufacturing. 

Here are a few apprentices talking about their experience at GSK.


  • Sussex
  • Hertfordshire
  • Berkshire
  • Durham
  • Scotland (multiple locations)
  • Ireland (multiple locations)
  • London

Want to know if there are any GSK apprenticeships in your area? Just click apprenticeships near me and set your preferred location.

Did you know?

100% of apprentices that have reviewed GSK on RateMyApprenticeship recommend them as a company to work for!


Syngenta is one of the world’s leading agriculture companies, with a big focus on environmental issues. They aim  to improve sustainability whilst maintaining the quality of crops. They employ over 28,000 workers, across 90 countries, to enable millions of farmers around the world to make the most of our limited resources. 

To see the difference Syngenta makes across the world, check out their recent project on saving the Brazilian rainforests.

To find out what our apprentices think of Syngenta, click here.


AstraZeneca describe themselves as “a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines.” 

Employees at AstraZeneca work on developing new medicines to improve the quality of life for patients in the UK. They offer apprenticeships at all levels; ranging from Laboratory Scientist to Oncology Apprentice.
 To see if there are openings for you to join the team, click here.


This company works with the NHS and other healthcare organisations to provide the best delivery of care. In 2016, they spent over £250 million supporting R&D carried out in the UK!

As an apprentice at Pfizer, you could find yourself working in any of the following areas:

  • HR
  • Laboratory Scientist
  • Digital Marketing
  • Project Management
  • Finance

Have a read of their reviews to find out more...

How much can I earn as an apprentice?

Science and pharmaceutical apprentices earn, on average, £16,200 a year. They also get at least 20 days of paid holidays per year (not including bank holidays!).

The current minimum wage for apprentices is £3.90 an hour, and this applies to anyone under the age of 19, or those in the first year of a science apprenticeship. Below is an excellent table outlining the National Minimum Wage in the UK.

Age Current Rate
25 and over £8.21
21 - 24 £7.70
18 - 20 £6.15
Under 18 £4.35
Apprentice £3.90

Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship and you have secured your place in the science industry, your future salary could be a whopping £52,500.

Is an apprenticeship right for you? is home to over 21,000 reviews, across a vast range of sectors. Browsing these reviews is a great way to gain insight on a company. After all, this is your career we’re talking about - so choosing an employer you want to work for is not a decision to be taken lightly. 

That’s why we encourage all of our apprentices to fill out an honest review of their time with their employer. Here are a few examples...

“The support from Science and Technological Facilities Council has simply been phenomenal.” Apprentice Laboratory Technician at Science and Technology Facilities Council

“My programme is structured well. I have set days for completing my studies/lab work. When given a new task, clear deadlines are always set so that I can manage my time accordingly.” Laboratory analyst at Thames Water

“My training provider offers significant support, performing weekly webinars where necessary to offer extra help and go into problems more thoroughly.” Drug Substance Manufacture Apprentice at AstraZeneca